Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com

MUSKOKA — Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner says Ontario has unspent billions it could spend on health care including Muskoka’s hospitals.

He says the province ranks last in health care spending per capita in Canada.

“We are the bottom.”

The leader of the two-member party — as expected — waded in to the local controversy Monday amidst the firestorm surrounding the size and scope of hospitals in south Muskoka and Huntsville — two sites run by Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare.

His comments came just days before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford announced a deal Friday for $3.1 billion in new health care program spending.

But there was no mention of capital construction contributions, which many residents in the south end of the federal and provincial riding would like to see spent on upgrading two proposed hospital model sites.

Green Leader Mike Schreiner introduced new deputy party leader Matt Richter Monday during his ‘Legalize It …’ housing tour, where he also waded into the local hospitals controversy.

Schreiner said “the Ontario Greens have always supported a hospital in Huntsville and a hospital in Bracebridge.”

He didn’t, however, say specifically equal.

“I don’t want to interfere in that local decision-making. We’re going to respect the local decision-making process and the prioritization of resources and services for those hospitals.

“But I will say we need a government that will step up and provide the resources it needs. I think the biggest area where the provincial government is failing is failure to invest in human resources. Not only in hospitals, but across our health care system. When those hospitals are built we need them to be fully staffed.

“As long as you have a government that’s not respecting front-line health-care workers — and putting wage restraints on their wages — you’re going to see health-care workers leave the system. Which means patient care suffers, workplace conditions suffer. So our belief is care for the people who care for our loved ones. That’s what we need to demand from the province.”

About 100 Green supporters filled St. Thomas Anglican Church for a regular visit by their leader.

So how would Schreiner resolve the local divide between MAHC and its opponents?

“There has clearly been a demonstrated need for a hospital in Huntsville and Bracebridge. The thing is that with the closure of the Minden emergency department just down the road is that people are having to travel longer distances to access emergency services.

“We don’t want to see that in Muskoka. That’s exactly why the Greens supported two hospitals.

“And that’s why we’re going around the province to get them to provide the funding the province needs to be able to attract and retain high quality front-line staff. To provide the patient care people deserve.”

Schreiner said Ontario has the lowest health care spending per capita, which is “the reason our health care system is collapsing across the province.”

The deepening debate overshadowed Schreiner’s ‘Legalize It …’ housing announcement at a hall just around the corner from South Muskoka Memorial Hospital.

And his official introduction Monday evening of riding candidate Matt Richter as deputy party leader.

After telling a room full of Green supporters, at St. Thomas Anglican Church, that now that they have two MPPs in Ontario’s legislature “I can’t wait to have three,” he said hopefully with a beaming Richter at his side in anticipation of another Green showdown with Tory MPP Graydon Smith in two years’ time.

That drew a rousing round of applause.

Schreiner also held a round table with business and municipal representatives before the public meeting.

Schreiner told me beforehand that he also supports more health care spending and that a Green government would ante up more than the Ford government.

He was also interested in the idea I proposed of raising the personal Ontario Health Premium of each taxpayer to fund more dedicated spending specifically for hospitals.

“I’d have to study the tax first, to be honest.

“But here’s what we support. We have literally the lowest per capita funding of any province in the country. We are the bottom. We have been saying Ontario should at least bring itself to the provincial average across the country.” A number he wasn’t exactly sure of.

“That would inject substantial resources in to our health care system.

“The province has resources to put more in to health care without raising taxes. Right now they’re sitting on a huge contingency fund that could be allocated to health care, to make sure front-line health care workers have fair wages and better working conditions, so we can address this health human resource crisis that’s causing such long wait times in emergency departments and in creating temporary closures especially in rural emergencies.

“The province has money right now and is failing to put it in health care.”

So where is it going?

“A lot of it is going in to a contingency fund. So it’s just sitting there. They’re sitting on billions of dollars that they haven’t spent that they could spend on health care.”

Schreiner told a packed room of almost 100, Greens want to make housing the law of Trillium land.

Parry Sound-Muskoka is one of the leading ridings for Greens. Richter won 40 per cent of the vote last time.
Greens are looking forward to an election in two years to run again against incumbent MPP Graydon Smith who won a narrow victory. What happens in hospitals debate will play a key role in that vote, Greens say.

That was also the message he shared with more than a dozen people in a round-table beforehand with business and municipal representatives. He also met with Muskoka Watershed council in the morning.

It’s a “right” the government can and should afford according to the province’s environmentally-focused and driven fourth place party.

Housing is “the “number one issue facing Ontario” and he wants to “legalize multiplexes and four-storey buildings as a right in Ontario, so we can quickly build more housing supply that ordinary people can afford in the communities they know and love.”

He’s also “pushing” Ontario and Ottawa “to step up and start supporting the building of non-profit co-op and supportive social housing.

“Everyone in Ontario deserves safe and affordable housing.”

Asked if government policies can be used with provincial funding to build more homes? Schreiner said: “Absolutely.

“There are two issues. One is our ‘Legalize It…’ campaign. It’s about getting rid of the red tape that is preventing people from building four-plexes and four-storey buildings. So we’re saying let’s say ‘yes’ to housing by legalizing housing. That will increase market supply of homes people can afford in the communities they know and love.

“At the same time we need the provincial government to step up with funding support for deeply affordable non-profit housing.”

He said he didn’t want to get in to a dollar figure per unit.

“But what we have called for are 60,000 deeply affordable permanently supportive houses across the province and an additional 150,000 non-profit, co-op and social housing units. Because the demand and need is so great. But we need that kind of effort from the province.

“There was a time in Ontario when 15,000 to 20,000 housing starts where government supported non-profit housing. We want to get back to that again.”

He says Greens have the buy-in support of the construction industry.


A packed hall saw a few Green supporters standing in the doorway to hear what Schreiner had to say.

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